Spotlight on Shorts: Somebody

This week I really wanted to do a genre focus leading up to my first interview. Since the filmmaker I’ll be interviewing specializes primarily on comedy, we’ll be spotlighting a rather ingenious little comedy short entitled “Somebody“, which premiered last month at the Venice Film Festival.

Directed by filmmaker Miranda July, this film is rather unique in that it promotes a real life app called Somebody. The app allows one user to text another user within the vicinity of somebody they wish to tell something to, but don’t have the courage to say to them face to face. It works not unlike Tinder, but rather than searching for booty calls, it searches for brave individuals who can approach complete strangers and relay messages of a personal nature without the emotional disconnection associated with mere texting.

The film is not exactly a commercial, but an actual comedic short that shows the app in action. It’s seems pretty clear from the tone of the film that July is focused less on promoting the app than she is with pointing out the direction society is headed in a world where social interactions are becoming more and more digitized. This appears to be more of a mock social experiment, exploring a world where communication via social media is becoming increasingly dominant over the old school method of personal interaction.

As a film, “Somebody really shines in the area of casting. The actors really do look like anyone you’d find off the streets; complete with the type of diversity we’ve come to expect walking the streets of a big city. This is used to a comedic effect as users of the app selectively choose the most unlikely participants to relay their heartfelt and/or heartbreaking messages to their recipients. This is very apparent in the first scene where we see a small, lanky hipster being “broken up” with a large, bearded man wearing a tracksuit complete with consoling hug.

The film also uses a familiar technique from films like Timecode by showing actors from the previous scene walk past or show up in later scenes to show that each experience is connected. This has a different effect in “Somebody”, as it introduces us to a world where this app has become a standard communication tool that everybody is using. This is also apparent in the way the rest of the world reacts to the app’s users, oftentimes without any surprise, as if usage of the app has become an everyday occurrence.

July’s method of promoting this film as a package deal of sorts is rather creative. It’s possible that she’s making yet another comment of modern day society by suggesting that promoting a short film requires more than just old fashion word of mouth. In an age where new technology is just as highly looked forward to and hyped up as summer blockbuster films, perhaps July is suggesting that in this day in age media and art need to be a combined to have any chance at getting noticed in a culture that has become oversaturated. Either way, it’s an interesting approach to advertising and I look forward to see its effects.

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